Sumner Welles Says Bermuda Conference is Not Secret; Rejects Labor Protest

Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles today denied that the Anglo-American conference on refugee problems which is now being held in Bermuda is taking place “behind closed doors.” He announced that the State Department is ready to transmit views, recommendations and suggestions to the America delegation at Bermuda “with the full assurance that such a communication will receive the fullest and most careful consideration of the delegates.”

The statement by Mr. Welles came in the form of a letter dated yesterday, replying to a formal protest lodged with the State Department by Philip Murray, president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, emphasizing that the membership of the CIO “is profoundly shocked at the outrageous mass murder of the Jewish people in Axis-dominated Europe” and criticizing the action of the State Department in closing the doors of the Bermuda Conference to representatives of American war relief groups.

“It was our desire and intention to send outstanding officers of the CIO to the current conference in Bermuda to report the sentiments of our membership,” Mr. Murray stated in his protest. “To our dismay we have been informed that this conference is behind closed doors, and that we will not be permitted to appear. We appeal to you that the voice of the people’s organizations of the United Nations should be heard at this conference. The closed-door policy gives us deep concern that this conference might be a mere diplomatic nicety. We would regret a repetition of the futile Evian conference. We urgently request that you reconsider the closed-door policy and admit our representatives to be heard on this tragic and urgent matter.” Mr. Murray’s protest followed the receipt of a cable from the Histadruth, Federation of Jewish Labor in Palestine, asking American labor to exert its influence on the conference by sending a labor delegation to the Bermuda parley.

Replying to the CIO protest, Mr. Welles emphasized that the Bermuda Conference is not being held behind closed doors as charged by Mr. Murray. He pointed out that representatives of news agencies have been permitted to proceed to Bermuda to cover the conference and that various organizations have submitted memoranda to the conference. He suggested that the CIO immediately submit its recommendations to the Bermuda delegates through the State Department “in order that such communication may at once be forwarded.”

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